Books by Charles Elliott

Released: July 14, 1992

Drawing on such popular histories as Nancy Mitford's The Sun King (1966), Elliott, a San Francisco writer, weaves through an informed and absorbing history of Louis XIV's court at Versailles the cloying story of little Adelaide, the ``perfect princess,'' betrothed at age ten to the king's grandson and sent to court to be groomed as the future queen. Traded off by her father, the Duke of Savoy, to secure a fitful peace, brave but ``merry'' Adelaide won the heart of the aging king and his secret wife, the wise Mme. Maintenon. They doted on Adelaide, amused her with hunts, masquerades, and fireworks while she learned the ceremonies and intrigues on which the opulent court functioned. ``Gay,'' ``reckless,'' ``irrepressible,'' briefly addicted to gambling, often ill-natured, mischievous, and demanding, Adelaide at age 14 married her moody, austere, and eccentric prince. As the ``18th century dawned over Europe,'' bickering over the Spanish succession turned into a long and costly war (1702-13), conducted only in the spring and summer under strict rules of decorum that guaranteed the dignity of the warring royals, all of whom were related. The war, however, was merely an unpleasant interlude in Adelaide's repeated attempts to produce an heir. Along with many miscarriages, she had three sons: One died in infancy, another at age five, and the last—orphaned as a toddler when both Adelaide and the Dauphin died of measles—grew up to become the ill-fated Louis XV. For those who like to read about the domestic life of royals, this is a rich tale. For the sake of Adelaide, though, it trivializes the marvelous French court, and turns the powerful and fearsome Louis XIV into an aging Maurice Chevalier singing ``Thank Heaven for Little Girls'' as he ogles his grandson's wife. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >